Friday, October 3, 2014

A Special Project - 30 Quilts for 30 Years

I have a good excuse for being so lax in blogging this year. I've  been very busy with a special project!!

To make a long story somewhat shorter, I decided that I wanted to donate thirty quilts to Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester, Minnesota. They provide affordable housing for patients waiting for, or recovering from, transplants of all sorts. I had personal connection with the house when my husband required a kidney transplant in 2012. 

One of the real comforts to be found in this facility is the presence of home made quilts on the beds. What a cheerful welcome to those of us away from home for an extended time.

I discovered that many of the quilts were quite worn out. Being a quilter, I thought that I should make a few to replace those that had done service and were ready to retire.The concept grew when I learned that 2014 is the 30th anniversary of Gift of Life.

You guessed it. I decided I wanted to donate 30 quilts!
I put out a letter explaining the project to my closest quilting friends. I talked to a nearby quilt guild and a local sewing group. A neighbor is a long-arm quilter and she offered to quilt several quilts. She got excited about the project and spread the word among her colleagues in the business and has joined me in the joy of opening these wonderful quilts, studying them and admiring their beauty. They range in size from twin to queen. They are BED quilts. Photos in this entry are just a few of the donations. I'll post more in the future.

I began getting quilt tops, completed quilts and offers to help with binding and other needs. Non-quilters wanting to participate sent money for needed supplies. I got busy making quilts myself, sewing backings for the donated tops, making and applying bindings to those that needed it and keeping a database of all the participants. I measured and photographed each quilt and began to design a label to put on each that would represent the project.

About this time the ALS 'ice bucket' campaign was taking off and it really felt like MY project was sort of doing the same thing! It just caught on and continues to do so.

All the way from New Jersey!
I came home carrying bags of quilts from any quilt meeting I went to. The Women of the West Quilters, the Maple Grove Community Senior quilters and the Quiltin' Babes just got INTO this!

I posted a brief mention of it on my Facebook page and while in Milwaukee for a seminar a friend from New Jersey said she would like to send a quilt. It arrived on my doorstep a few days later!

The majority are from Minnesota but participants literally cover the nation from California to Florida, up to Idaho, down to Nevada and Arizona and East to New far!

Today I am assured of having the 30 quilts I set out to donate and many many more. I will report on the total number when I have it but I am quite sure I will have around 60 if all the tops still needing quilting get done. I can no longer accept anything but completed quilts or I'll get behind. I may have to tie some of them but hope to have more volunteers to do the quilting as I think they last longer.

I've always known the quilting community was a generous and productive group but this year has proven to be the closest experience I've had in seeing it first hand. People do want to help others. People get joy from doing so. I have had people thank me for letting them be part of this

Yesterday I delivered four quilts that needed binding to a woman who was very excited to get them in time to have one to work on when the Vikings played that night. She does not like to watch TV without a quilt to bind and she had run out! I was so glad I could help her! :)

Watch for updates. And try the link to the Transplant House. It's a worthy place to support.

"Project Central"
My sewing room with stacks of quilts waiting for me to attach the label that will go on each quilt

These all came in from one evening at a local guild.

By the way.....
Have you made the choice to be an organ donor? 
There is a huge shortage.
 People are dying every day that could live with the generous Gift of Life.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bunny Crib Quilt - A Success Story

I think I mentioned some time ago that I have decided to stop saying that I was not buying anymore quilts. I understand now that I am helpless in the face of a quilt I really like at really nice price.
So I happily share with you my most recent addition.

The applique is well done and the hand quilting fine. There is embroidered detail on the central rose.

How could I pass this up? Well, it didn't always look this good which is probably why I got it for $38.

OUCH! Some very large and obvious stains on that nice white background. But so CUTE. I had to take a chance.

I was anxious to see what I could do with it. Working on stains is always a multi-step process involving patience and trial and error. It is a risk and the outcome is always unknown . However, I don't believe a dirty or soiled quilt is a good thing and I kind of enjoy the challenge.

Here's what I did:

First I made a paste of water and Restoration and applied just to that area. (It ended up being more watery than pastey  because I wanted the crystals to be dissolved.)
I worked over a large white plastic bowl on the top of my washing machine. I was able to clothespin it to the edge so that it was taut and I could apply the solution to a small area and have the excess drip into the bowl to be used again. I used a small plastic measuring cup with a spout.
I  thought I could see it working right away.

I let it soak that way for awhile. Then, I rubbed a bit of my Aunt Agnes' homemade bar soap into one stain to see what happened. (This is the only thing that got my boys socks clean - you know how they wear them outside without shoes...on blacktop?) Her recipe had  lye in and and who knows what-all but I recall my Mom saving bacon grease for her to make it. She had such a supply that both my sister and I still have some bars and she passed away in 1981!!
So back to my project.
I gingerly rubbed the yellowed bar on the stains and quickly manipulated the fabric by hand to rub it in all the way. Dilute with more water....
I was excited that even while still wet the stains were getting much lighter.
Okay. Here's the scary part. I put a TINY bit of bleach in a cup of water. I mean about 1/4 teaspoon. VERY diluted. I was careful to direct it onto the stains and avoided colored fabrics - AND  I have pure clean water at the ready to pour through it almost immediately.

My supplies
After all of this attention to detail I immersed the whole quilt into the washing machine with a 'friendly' soap I get at Whole Foods with no brighteners, bleaches etc. I let it sit in the suds without agitation for a bit  then set it for 'hand wash'.
I put it in the dryer on low with a couple of dry,white towels to help fill the dryer and cushion the quilt as it cycles around. I opened the dryer at 10 minutes and took it out while still damp.
Voila.... I laid it on a white sheet on the floor to finish drying and manipulated it gently to square it up. When dry, the quilting really showed nicely and I felt I"d improved it greatly.

It reminds me a little bit of another cute appliqued crib quilt in my collection, one I also washed:

This is a little pillow cover - The bottom white piece would tuck in and be whip stitched after inserting the pillow. The maker simplified and reduced the size of the posy.

Have you washed a vintage quilt?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Teeny Tiny Pieces & Confessions

I have been saving scraps if they are large enough to cut a 1" square. I didn't really like to tell too many people about this because, well, you know. Some people just don't understand. - the ones that toss really BIG hunks into the waste basket at retreats. Recently I even saw a big chunk in the waste basket of a vendor at our state quilt show. I regret not being bold enough to ask if I could dig it out!

However, I am no longer embarrassed or ashamed.

Here's a quilt on display at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, visited recently, that makes 1" pieces look big.


Here is the full view so you can get the perspective. Not terribly graphic from afar, is it? But get closer to see the size of the pieces and the purposeful arrangement of chevrons which are ultimately joined into four large sections. It's truly a wonder - a testament to patience and extreme thrift!

Checking The Quilt Index, where quilts from this museum collection are documented, I found out more about this quilt. Made by Bessie Sanford of Michigan, born in 1873, it is hand pieced and hand quilted from the back in fans. Someone more patient than I figured out that there are about 37,000 pieces. It measures 80" square. I understand and applaud Bessie. There is something so satisfying about 'using up' every tidbit.

In the late 1800's it became quite the popular thing for some quilters who were competitive in nature to try to earn bragging rights about the number of pieces in their quilt. Agricultural fairs promoted this popular type of competition and articles appeared in newspapers stating the number of pieces in someone's quilt so, inevitably, someone else said, 'I can top that!" and the challenge was on.

The result is that there are many such quilts but the first quilt that I admit brought tears to my eyes was Grace Snyder's Flower Basket Petit Point. I had never seen such a thing. It was on display in 2002 at the Houston International  Quilt Show, chosen as one of the one hundred Best Quilts of the 20th century.

It is composed of half square triangle units measuring one fourth of an inch!. You heard me right. Eight tiny triangles sewn together make a ‘block’ about the size of a postage stamp!

This in not the full quilt but you can see it at the IQSCG website. Double click this image for a close-up.

Grace was inspired by a needlepoint pattern on on a set of china. I was able to see the actual china for the first time at a recent lecture by Jeananne Wright in Colorado.

 The story of her life, as told to her daughter, is called   No Time on My Hands, the understatement of all time! I highly recommend it.

The Flower Basket quilt is now in the collection of IQSCM at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as is this hexagon quilt, also by Grace.  She just couldn't quit!

Click here for just one of many links with more examples and information about quilts with many small pieces.

So now you know. 
I save tiny pieces of fabric 
and beautiful quilts can bring me to tears!

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Trip to Denver - Quilts Galore!

I just returned from a visit to the Denver area where I was fortunate to enjoy a great many opportunities to see and study vintage quilts and attend several special events.
The First Glance;Second Look exhibition at the Denver Art Museum was one of them. I attended with several quilt loving friends and we were all completely enthralled with the display of quilts from the museum's collection. The exhibit was aptly named because each and every quilt nearly forced you to take a second look...and a third and fourth! At first glance you are excited. Up close you notice more things to exclaim over.
You may have seen some of these quilts on calendars or in other publications.
Here's a graphic four block Prince's Feather made in Alabama.

 I'll zoom in for a closer look at the quilting.

We all commented on the fan quilted border;
not often seen as just a border quilting design

Pine Tree Medallion c. 1900
Made in Alabama
 The central pine tree, faded from the original color,
 is surrounded by dramatic borders! 
Mathematical precision is required to make the corners meet so perfectly

This Matterhorn quilt is composed of over 9,000 3/4" squares
.Hand quilted.
95" x 105"

Having attended a lecture the night before called Sew Many Pieces by Jeananne Wright, this one was of particular interest. Jeananne shared quilts from her collection that were made of over 3,000 pieces.
Apparently no one has taken on the job of counting these pieces as the information was not provided!

The Houses and Pine Trees quilt was even reproduced on the elevator door and is the cover of a very nice  companion book available by mail order or in the museum gift shop. 

By the way, you can see more photos of this exhibit at the blog Collector with a Needle
  Part 1  and  Part 2

The adjoining thread studio was an interesting and unique concept with a variety of displays from techniques to tools along with 'hands on' experiences.

All of these bobbins are required to make this intricate lace. I have seen women doing this and find it hard to believe they can manage to keep them all straight.

Here's a display of the steps involved in making a Cathedral Window. So many people wonder how it is done. Technically not a quilt, these are heavy textiles and you can see why! There are a great many layers of folded fabric.

While you are there, the 3rd floor has a wonderful exhibit of American Indian art.
 I especially loved the eye dazzler Navaho rug display.

If you get to this museum be sure to go when it opens and allow enough time to take it all in. Then you will be hungry enough to enjoy the excellent lunch at the museum restaurant.

 I can vouch for the Cobb Salad!